WASHINGTON (WNEW) — Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of the American public says religion’s influence is declining in the U.S., as a divide between the religiously affiliated and those without religion continue to widen.
New Pew Research Center polling data shows that the number of people who think religion is losing influence in American life is up 5 percentage points from 2010 – the highest level in Pew polling over the past decade. The data also shows a growing partisan divide on issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion.
Americans are evenly divided on whether or not churches or other houses of worship should express political views. Forty-nine percent say that these religious groups should express their views on day-to-day social and political life but 48 percent say religious groups should keep out.
More than half of Americans (56 percent) say that religion’s loss of influence in American is a “bad thing.” Among white evangelical Protestants, 77 percent say that religion losing influence is a negative thing.
Among self-identifying Republicans, nearly six-in-ten (59 percent) say that churches should express their views on social and political issues – and 11-point increase from 2010 polling data. Two-thirds of white evangelical Protestants (66 percent) now express support for having churches speak out on social and political issues, up from 56 percent in 2010 and nearly six-in-ten black Protestants (58 percent) also say churches should express their political views.
On the Democrat side, there has been little change, with 55 percent saying churches should keep out of politics.
Forty-one percent of Americans say there has been “too little” expression of religious faith from political leaders, while 30 percent say there has been too much and 23 percent say there has been the right amount of public religious discourse.
A greater share of the general public views the Republican Party as friendly toward religion (47 percent) than sees the Democratic Party that way (29 percent). And a declining number of Americans see the Obama administration as friendly toward religion, with a 7-point decrease showing that only 30 percent of U.S. adults hold such a viewpoint.
A solid majority of Americans (63 percent) say churches should not endorse particular candidates during political elections, compared to 32 percent who say they support this idea. Those who support religious endorsements has increased by 8 percentage points from 2010.
As a whole, nearly six-in-ten Americans (59 percent) say it is important for members of Congress to have strong religious beliefs. But more than two-thirds of religiously unaffiliated “nones” (68 percent) say it is not important for members of Congress to have strong religious faith.
Nearly six-in-ten (59 percent) of those polled say Muslims face a lot of discrimination in the U.S. today. Less than one-third said Jews (32 percent), evangelical Christians (31 percent), atheists (27 percent) and Catholics (19 percent) also face a lot of religious discrimination.